Support Families at Virtua
Gabriella “Ella” Grace Zipp inspired generosity and compassion among those who loved and cared for her. On May 13, 2014 at age 5, Ella passed away from a rare genetic condition. But her joy for life lives on through her family’s efforts to comfort and support others in need.
At 32 weeks, Ella was born with Microcephalic Osteodysplastic Premordial Dwarfism Type 1 at Virtua Voorhees. She was one of just three known infants in the world with the condition who lived to 5 years old. Despite their devastation, her parents Karen and Christopher choose to focus on the quality of Ella’s limited time with them.
“We had three goals for her short and troubled, precious life: that she is comfortable, happy, and that she knows she is loved. These three aspirations guided all of our decisions,” said Karen. “We only share it now so others facing similar situations may find peace in knowing that despite the cruelty of your child's fate, you may be inspired to provide a lifetime of love, comfort, and joy.”
Out of their despair, Karen and Christopher found comfort in helping others. They know all-too-well what it is like to face an unexpected or long-term hospital stay. With that in mind, they created Ella Grace Place, a website dedicated to collecting and donating care packages for parents with a hospitalized child.
“In the hospital, emergently you don’t think at all about yourself. There is no time to pack a bag, you don’t want to leave your child,” Karen said.
With the help of volunteers, including Girl Scout troops, high school clubs and even children from an local school, Karen and her community of supporters created “A Little ELLAgance” care packages to provide parents with a little comfort and a moment to refresh. The packages include items such as face wipes, Chap Stick, lotion and mints. Each comes with an inspirational message to provide hope at a time when they might need it most.
Karen estimates that more than 500 bags have been donated to date, many to hospitals in Northern New Jersey where the Zipps now reside. They recently added Virtua Voorhees to the list of beneficiaries in appreciation for the care Ella received from the nurses they call “angles” during her four month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“I'm not sure words can capture how they've touched our lives,” said Karen. “They walked us through the first four months of our Ella's life and they were there for us when she left us. They've left an imprint on our hearts forever.”
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